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Philosophical question about training

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    Posted: 11/13/2013 at 3:47pm
I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this one but is it better to work on your strengths or your weakness?

Basically, if you have a strong backhand and weak forehand - should you spend time trying to improve the forehand or spend the time strengthening the already strong back? Assuming time is the limiting factor.


Edited by jrscatman - 11/13/2013 at 3:48pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CraneStyle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 3:58pm
For me it's - Maintain strengths; work on weaknesses.

Reduce the time spent on my consistent shots and spend more time doing the inconsistent shots during training sessions...

The time may come where I settle for what I have, but at the mo I've got some shots I want nailed for my gameplay. ...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BMonkey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 4:19pm
I think this depends on the amount of difference between the strength and the weakness. When the weakness starts losing you more points than the strength wins you, time to work on the weakness. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pingpongpaddy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 4:24pm
Good area to look at:
I would say that the terms 'strong' and 'weak' are perhaps not quite adequate for the situation.
For instance my big shot is my forehand, but really my strength is really in my blocking on both wings. I am fairly happy these days with the technique on both blocking and fh drive so I see my weak area as coping with mobility mid distance and further back. I deal with this mainly by playing close to the table mostly, and hopefully using my strengths to prevent my weakness from becoming an issue. If I spent time practising mid distance it would feel too defensive so I only go back willingly, maybe helping a pracice partner.
For those people who have a 'power wing' and a less powerful wing they should analyse carefully before they decide that the less powerful side is necessarily weaker. It could be that it is performing a useful 'string-pulling' role in setting up your power wing. If you decide to develop your supposed weaker side so that you become a 2 winged attacker, it could be that you may lose tactical focus, and also in producing power both sides you may lose consistency
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote beeray1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 4:25pm
It depends on your level and how much you practice. 

If you don't practice much (like me) you find yourself swinging back and fourth on what is and is not reliable in your game as you work on different things without much opportunity to balance it out. 

If you practice a considerable amount, it's much easier to solidify one thing while maintaining another. For instance, incorporating drills that further groove your strength but stretch what you aren't so good at. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote htfu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 4:44pm
my current view of this is :

- you are only as strong as your weakest technique
- time spent working on a weakness is better value than trying to push a strength just that little bit further
- strong techniques are limited by the weakest techniques, there needs to some sort of balance

in my case my footwork is absolutely my weakest area, my forehand and backhand drive and loop are of my strongest. without improving my weakest area (footwork) i will not be able to employ the stronger parts of my game effectively (that great loop/drive is useless unless i can get to the ball). so this is where i'm focusing all of my effort as it will have the best overall impact on my game.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hookumsnivy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 7:09pm
I think it all depends on what your strengths and weaknesses are and how big a difference there is between them.  It also depends on how you use them tactically.

For instance, if your weakness prevents you from taking advantage of your strengths, then you really need to focus on your weaknesses.  If your opponent can avoid your strengths and play to your weaknesses, you need to balance it out.  Don't stop working on your strengths though, because you want to keep them strong.

If your weakness is something that you rarely do because of your preferred style of play (far from the table play when you're close to the table attacker) then while I would say it would be good to improve that aspect, it's not critical right now.

However, in your example of a strong backhand and a weak forehand, I would say you need to REALLY focus on your FH.  If an opponent realizes that your FH is noticeably weaker it will be very easy to take advantage of.  Even with the best footwork, it's almost impossible to hit everything with your BH.  If it was the opposite scenario and your FH was far stronger than your BH, you can utilize your footwork to attack as much as possible with your FH (traditional penholders know all about this) and try to hide the weakness.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NextLevel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 7:50pm
Everyone has said the right thing in different words.
 
Decide how you want to play given your strength (which might change over time).
 
Eradicate the weaknesses that prevent you from introducing your strength.
 
To take an example from a great table tennis writer, if you loop backspin well, you want to get your opponents to give you backspin.  One way to do this is to have a good backspin serve so your opponents push to you.  If one of your weaknesses is that you don't have a good backspin serve and that your opponents flick your serve, you may work on the serve so that you get what you want ( a push to loop).
 
I open with my backhand as my preferred shot so I worked on a variety of backhand serves (I am actually the only player I know who serves the backhand reverse serve on a regular basis).  However, my forehand was once so bad people started pushing to it once they realized that they couldn't break down my backhand easily.  So I worked on the opening forehand loop just to make sure that they didn't get easy points going there.
 
I know a player at my club who loves to hit and smash and is great against topspin.  But when you push to him or slow loop to him with spin with late timing shots, he starts complaining if he misses his smashes that you aren't playing him aggressively because you are scared of his topspin game.  Yes, such players do exist...
 
If he focused on figuring out how to stop his opponents from chopping to him other than the power of speech, that would be more productive...


Edited by NextLevel - 11/13/2013 at 7:59pm
I like putting heavy topspin on the ball...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote stiltt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 8:26pm
Originally posted by pingpongpaddy pingpongpaddy wrote:

Good area to look at:
I would say that the terms 'strong' and 'weak' are perhaps not quite adequate for the situation.
For instance my big shot is my forehand, but really my strength is really in my blocking on both wings. I am fairly happy these days with the technique on both blocking and fh drive so I see my weak area as coping with mobility mid distance and further back. I deal with this mainly by playing close to the table mostly, and hopefully using my strengths to prevent my weakness from becoming an issue. If I spent time practising mid distance it would feel too defensive so I only go back willingly, maybe helping a pracice partner.
For those people who have a 'power wing' and a less powerful wing they should analyse carefully before they decide that the less powerful side is necessarily weaker. It could be that it is performing a useful 'string-pulling' role in setting up your power wing. If you decide to develop your supposed weaker side so that you become a 2 winged attacker, it could be that you may lose tactical focus, and also in producing power both sides you may lose consistency
I enjoyed this a lot as so realistic; even though it might seem logical to bring weakest spots of our game to the level of our best ones, we know that we are aware of what we do best and we base our play on it; therefore realistically it might be better to have other strokes serve the best one; e.g practicing for making the bh stronger not at killing or power looping but at placing the ball efficiently in order to favor the next fh at which one might be so good at.  As an allround player it is only a personal thing that I enjoy doing everything from both wings.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 8:44pm
It could depend on whether or not when you try to work on your weaknesses, you just reinforce the bad technique, or if by working it you actually make it better.  That's sometimes a tough call to make by yourself.  Is the situation so hopeless that you need to work on ways to compensate (work the strengths and make them better), or can you actually make the weakness better?  Everyone is different.  It is not so much philosophy as an individual situation.  This calls for a good and honest and realistic coach sometimes.  Of course, that may be harder to find than the stroke you are missing.  Sometimes a really good friend who is a practice partner who's judgement you can trust?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jrscatman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/13/2013 at 11:34pm
The reason I asked the question was because I read a quote from John MacEnroe - the tennis player. He said if I had to do it over again - "I would work my strengths rather than my weaknesses" 

I've always thought you have to improve your weak areas - but seeing that comment made me think.

I guess in terms of TT: Serve and Return - will be the top of the list. Followed by the other shots based on your style of play.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote larrytt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 12:07am
Originally posted by jrscatman jrscatman wrote:

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this one but is it better to work on your strengths or your weakness?

Basically, if you have a strong backhand and weak forehand - should you spend time trying to improve the forehand or spend the time strengthening the already strong back? Assuming time is the limiting factor.
Every case is different, but the short, simple answer I usually give is this: Practice everything you might do in a game, but focus on your strengths and weaknesses. Make the strengths overpowering and get rid of the weaknesses. 

If you have limited time, then focus intensely on one aspect until it's greatly improved, then focus on the other until it is greatly improved. You'll improve faster this way then if you do just a little of each in limited time. You should probably start by improving the weakness if you only have time for one. But with limited time, it's going to be a long process. Once the weakness is up to par, focus on making the strengths overpowering. You can't dominate if you don't have something to dominate with. 

Regarding making the strengths overpowering, this includes both developing overpowering shots and setting them up. If you have a great forehand loop, then you also need ways to get it into play. 

-Larry Hodges


Edited by larrytt - 11/14/2013 at 12:09am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote strideforward Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 9:05am
in the long term :work on both weakness (try to make it not too weak) and strengths (refine your merits)
in the short term(preparation for big event): work on the strengths
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bluebucket Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 9:16am
When you start seeing a pattern of players finding your weak spot and when that starts costing you matches, then you fix it
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mhnh007 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 9:22am
If your FH is weaker because of how you stand, or how you play (which favors BH), then it's Ok to try to make you BH even stronger to cover your weakness.  I see quite a few good players, who play mostly BH, and they are very successful.  However, if your FH is weak, because you just don't have it, then it's obvious you need to take care of that first.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 9:22am
With great respect to what Larry has said, I would argue that if time is limited then improving serve and return of serve might yield best return on investment.

A second philosophical question that relates:  How do you institute a training regimen that does not simply reinforce bad habits?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gatorling Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 11:37am
Work on improving weaknesses if they are regularly exploited during matches.

E.g your strength is useless if your opponent can prevent you from using it by exploiting your weakness.

I think a good example applies for lower level push blockers (who use OX LP on their BH and just block the ball back). They depend on the other person being bone headed and trying to loop everthing.
Once an opponent slows down and starts rolling shots and only loops the very high percentage shots..they fall apart.
The weakness is that the pushblocker does not have a strong attack that he or she can turn on to punish poor quality roll shots.

In this scenario the weakness needs to be worked on.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 3:13pm
all good comments here and no wrong answers, but sometimes the hardest thing is to impliment the new things into real life games, and that can be the real weakness or strength of your game
learning/ practicing then doing
and although Iv'e never done this I think getting a few videos of yourself in games and get someone knowledgable to help you with identifing areas to improve, actually most everyone will see things themselves
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 3:22pm
Also service return is one area forgoten about and where everyone can benifit, sometimes when I watch a game or even when I play, that person played ok but if he/she just could have received one particular serve better and not have lost 3-4-5 points per game,
then the whole dynamics of the match could/may/will change
 
I sort of bought this one situation up to show or idenify that sometimes what we this is our weakness maybe not the most important weakness to fix up first
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hookumsnivy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 3:27pm
Originally posted by smackman smackman wrote:

Also service return is one area forgoten about and where everyone can benifit, sometimes when I watch a game or even when I play, that person played ok but if he/she just could have received one particular serve better and not have lost 3-4-5 points per game,
then the whole dynamics of the match could/may/will change
 
I sort of bought this one situation up to show or idenify that sometimes what we this is our weakness maybe not the most important weakness to fix up first
 
 

Among all my weaknesses (and there are many), I find this to be my biggest.  Unfortunately it's also the most difficult for me to improve on since I only play once a week.  I can work on footwork (2nd biggest), and all the different strokes with a robot, but service return is a real issue.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 4:02pm
Think if in every game you played, you returned serve significantly better on just two of the points -- well enough to capture the initiative.  How much better would you be?  ( I don't actually know the answer to this).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mhnh007 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 4:15pm
Originally posted by Baal Baal wrote:

Think if in every game you played, you returned serve significantly better on just two of the points -- well enough to capture the initiative.  How much better would you be?  ( I don't actually know the answer to this).

I use to worry about my service return, it cost me a couple points per game either directly, or indirectly.  However, a much better player (and wiser too) told me that if my service return was better, sure I would play better, and I would face better player, who can serve even better, and the problem will still be there.  So basically, it's part of the game, I need to deal with it.  I now try to improve my service, so not only it help me deal with good service (read the spin better), but I can hopefully get back what i give Smile.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BMonkey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 4:21pm
Originally posted by Baal Baal wrote:

Think if in every game you played, you returned serve significantly better on just two of the points -- well enough to capture the initiative.  How much better would you be?  ( I don't actually know the answer to this).
I think that the desire to capture the initiative (or put another way: the fear of giving the opponent an opening) is one of the reasons people make unforced mistakes in their service returns. Trying to make too strong a return when you aren't in position/late and aren't 100% sure of the spin is poor shot selection. Just getting the ball back in play with a weaker return in anticipation to have to defend the next ball, can give you a better chance. 

Knowing when to quit trying to do fancy dropshots and flicks, and just settling for some long pushes, all comes down to match experience and trust in your ability to work your way back into a point.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CraneStyle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 4:39pm
Improvement is what I think is being discussed... (With some maintenance)...

My coach says "forget this season"...

I think WAT! I can't do that, I don't want to lose or let the team down. But now I get it. I've been actively trying to put what I'm learning into matches. If I didn't, I wouldn't improve and I am improving.

The coaches clever philosophy is to get me to try what I'm working on in matches and it has worked.

It's made the evaluation of my progress a lot more interesting...

i find myself saying - "Yeah, I had some very successful BH loops against backspin tonight,"
I might have otherwise waited until I thought my lifting of backspin was "perfect" before I tried to do it in a match and just resorted to a safe push/ lift.

Just thought I'd share this with you as it is linked to many parts of this very interesting phylsophical thread...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 9:40pm
Originally posted by BMonkey BMonkey wrote:

I think that the desire to capture the initiative (or put another way: the fear of giving the opponent an opening) is one of the reasons people make unforced mistakes in their service returns. Trying to make too strong a return when you aren't in position/late and aren't 100% sure of the spin is poor shot selection. Just getting the ball back in play with a weaker return in anticipation to have to defend the next ball, can give you a better chance. 

Knowing when to quit trying to do fancy dropshots and flicks, and just settling for some long pushes, all comes down to match experience and trust in your ability to work your way back into a point.


This is true.  Also, sometimes a long push return is what gives you the initiative.  So let's go with this.  If you made better choices on two service returns  in every game, how much better would you be?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 11:02pm
If time is the limiting factor as OP says, then you would want to guess which could improve more in the amount of time you have.  If you have strong BH and weak FH, you probably use mostly BH when you do play. Also your body position and footwork, maybe also grip, are set up to optimize BH.  So although it might seem that FH would improve more because it is weaker, really all of these different elements would have to change to get the big improvement, and that might even weaken your BH strength.  

Long way of saying, maybe if you have little time you gain more by working on your strength, that you will actually use in match play. 

This assumes (and I think the other replies do also) that your goal is to win as many points as possible. If your main goal is to have a pretty (or balanced or whatever you want to call it) game, and not so focused on results, then obviously work to improve your weakness. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 11:11pm
Originally posted by BRS BRS wrote:

If time is the limiting factor as OP says, then you would want to guess which could improve more in the amount of time you have.  If you have strong BH and weak FH, you probably use mostly BH when you do play. Also your body position and footwork, maybe also grip, are set up to optimize BH.  So although it might seem that FH would improve more because it is weaker, really all of these different elements would have to change to get the big improvement, and that might even weaken your BH strength.  

Long way of saying, maybe if you have little time you gain more by working on your strength, that you will actually use in match play. 

This assumes (and I think the other replies do also) that your goal is to win as many points as possible. If your main goal is to have a pretty (or balanced or whatever you want to call it) game, and not so focused on results, then obviously work to improve your weakness. 


all good and dandy untill someone dosn't hit a return to your backhand
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BRS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 11:21pm
But if you devote your limited practice time to your FH weakness, and it still kind of stinks, and now your BH isn't quite as strong as it was before, what have you gained?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote stiltt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 11:35pm
I definitely like the idea to focus on control on the weak stroke to keep serving the strong one; every once in a while, adding more speed to that weak stroke will increase its level overtime while it will remain the strong stroke's servant in the transition; at some point the player will notice the "to-be-now-quoted-weak-stroke" is actually gaining more points outright; (s)he will acknowledge its higher level, increasing confidence in it.
older brother stroke taking younger brother stroke by the hand to climb the hill up kind of  story. I see it as a less frustrating, less robotic way to progress than the systematic training of one stroke, trying then to force it into a game; the latter is dangerous: ping pong is no lego game.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote smackman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11/14/2013 at 11:53pm
Originally posted by Baal Baal wrote:

Think if in every game you played, you returned serve significantly better on just two of the points -- well enough to capture the initiative.  How much better would you be?  ( I don't actually know the answer to this).
 
lots of possibilities but lets say, the op won 2 serves per game because you missed (didn't return the ball or game a easy kill) the first thing is it something that can be easily fixed ie, not ready enough, not watching enough, not enough effort, something new and no ready solution, too far back, too far left, knees not bent enough, not learning from your mistakes, not watching the op game before, not high enough skill level, body/ shape height, missread spin, the sun was in your eyes, no side line advisor, didn't know op had long pimples, got too faster gear for yourself, ground hog day, the serve looked the same but it wasn't, gave up point because of poor reply

anyway you understand that that say you lost 3-1 and that  worked out at 8 points of poorly return or not returned balls,  so you go away and work on .... this proble and get your best buddy Nigel serve mainly very short to your forehand side, and as you are not very tall its hard to reach, also you were suprised each time

 so you do some work on that one area of play and you improve your accuracy by 70% and your flip by 35% and your drop shot on a angle return by 45%
so what does that mean?, 
 So next wednesday you play this rival again say if the op tried the same serve on you but on the offensive and  you fliped it back for a winner CHO!, so the op thought I won't serve that one again 
did later because it wAS a personal fav after all, and just maybe it was a fluke, but this time you get in a early flip position but at the last second you just drop it back, for a winner

 You may in corse change the whole dynamics of the game or just improve a percentage of the 8 missed points by 50% = 4 more better return which in turn allowed you in 4 more rallies which you won 50% of those , which could have made a difference of 2 more points a match and -2 for the op

 then on the other side you were over focused on return that serve and you missed 3 quickies long to your backhand corner,
 or it may have improved you whole moral because you fixed a glearing bad habit and were now King of table 4 on wednesday nights, (well not every Wednesday as you wife has her Womans reading group once a month on a Wednesday night) but on that one night between the hours of 7pm and 8 pm you were the man, 

meanwhile in the dark corner sits Nigel not only your  best buddy but the op who lost on table 4, think's Fu(k him Im never helping that prick again, look at him gloating away

Ulmo Duality,tibhar Aurus Prime Dr N Pistal Black
NZ table tennis selector, third in the World (plate Doubles)I'm Listed on the ITTF website,
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